Seaton: Scruffy City Vengeance (Update)

Vengeance is not justice. You would think career prosecutors would know this, since Justice Robert Jackson famously admonished them to seek the latter. Unfortunately, prosecutors in my backyard are currently pursuing a case of nothing less than full-blown country vengeance, ripping open a twelve-year-old community wound in the process.

Eric Boyd’s murder trial started this week. Boyd is accused of horrifically raping, torturing, and murdering two UT College students, Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, twelve years ago. Three other defendants accused of participating in the nightmarish crime are currently serving sentences amounting to life plus cancer. One is on death row.

Boyd, however, is currently on year ten of an eighteen year federal bit for harboring the alleged ringleader of this crime, Lemaricus Davidson.

So why now, twelve years and two murder trials after the fact, is the Knox County District Attorney’s Office hauling Eric Boyd in for Channon Christian and Chris Newsom’s murders?

The DA’s office found a stooge with a motive. George Thomas, one defendant serving two consecutive life sentences with a 25-year kicker, agreed to testify for the State if they reduced his sentence to fifty years, with eighty percent guaranteed.

Thomas is 36. He’s still going to serve forty years under this new deal for his participation in the Christian/Newsom murders. That leaves him a good shot at dying behind bars anyway.

So why come forward now and help throw Eric Boyd under the bus? When you consider the circumstances, it’s easy to see the motive. Thomas knew there was a chance Eric Boyd might actually get out of prison and wanted to make Boyd suffer just as much.

And the Knox County DA’s office made the decision to strike a sweetheart deal with someone already found guilty by two juries for raping, torturing, and murdering Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom in one of the most horrifically brutal murders in East Tennessee history.

So the DA’s office gets a willing stooge who’s motivated to say and do anything to make sure Eric Boyd is seen by a trier of fact as a No Good Rat Bastard who Totally Did It. And the DAs have their shot at finally popping their “one that got away” with a guilty verdict.

Is anyone seeing the problem here? Do I need to spell this out in further detail?

Okay, let’s bring out the teaching stick first. I’ve been accused of overusing the Angry Chair Leg of Truth before, so we’ll begin with a softer approach.

None of this is about seeking justice, incentivizing a plea deal, or any job function prosecutors normally perform. This is a trial focused on one goal only: does a man currently serving nearly twenty years in federal prison need to suffer more?

The District Attorney’s office, by bringing the Christian/Newsom murders back into Knox County, is happily reopening a twelve-year-old wound that still sparks a racial divide in the region. Five people of color were accused of raping, torturing, and murdering two white college kids.

All five are behind bars, with one on death row. Eric Boyd’s murder conviction won’t heal any wounds, repair any damage or bring any closure besides a champagne toast in the DA’s office when the jury finds him guilty.

George Thomas, if his testimony proves useful and not entirely incredible, gets to see Eric Boyd die in prison like the rest of the defendants. Hate may be a hell of a motivator, but it doesn’t make Thomas a good actor in this scenario.

And the families of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom get the benefit of reliving one more time, from the lips of a man found guilty of the crime, in graphic detail, the night they lost a son and daughter.

Nothing about this is justice. Nothing about this is fair. To call this a trial in the criminal justice system would be an insult to an already broken system.

But here in Knox County, with every media outlet live-streaming Eric Boyd’s trial, the decades old words of Warren Ellis ring true:

“You must like it when people with authority they never earned lie to you.”

UPDATE: George Thomas took the stand yesterday afternoon and predictably attempted to pin every detail of the murders on Eric Boyd. People in attendance have told me Thomas’s testimony came off as inauthentic and unreliable. The jury was excused for the day at the close of direct. 

Cross examination this morning saw Boyd’s counsel highlight the inconsistencies in Thomas’s testimony both in this trial and in previous trials. The consensus from those I’ve spoken with is that Thomas has zero credibility at this point, but Defense counsel never refuted Boyd’s presence at the crime scene.

19 thoughts on “Seaton: Scruffy City Vengeance (Update)

    1. CLS

      You are correct. It is, however, grade A, uncut bullshit. And since no one else is going to call it, I guess the task falls in my lap.

      1. Jeff

        Yeah. I tried responding four times without being able to produce anything that didn’t restate the obvious. It’s unacceptable.

  1. Guitardave

    WARNING, DO NOT GO SEARCHING FOR OTHER SONGS WITH THIS TITLE. I gotta go stick my head in a bucket of bleach now…

  2. B. McLeod

    Ironic mention of Robert Jackson, who certainly demonstrated at Nuremberg that he could not tell whether he was looking at justice or vengeance. Also, retribution is one of the goals of criminal punishment, and always has been.

      1. B. McLeod

        Western societies have murder courts to begin with because a long time ago, some people in Greece thought it was more orderly if the polis took over revenge killing, rather than letting citizens continue to handle it via blood feuds. It was a coarse, utilitarian social pact, and there was nothing remotely moral to it, but it has held its own through the centuries. When and where it breaks down (e.g. present day Chicago) people still go back to doing their killing in the streets.

    1. CLS

      And a Federal judge determined the appropriate retribution for Boyd’s part in the crime was eighteen years. This pile-on has nothing to do with retribution.

      1. JMK

        Mr. Seaton,

        I enjoy your contributions to this site (I’m a fellow east Tennessean) but in this case I believe you’re being disingenuous by using the “tearing the family’s wounds open” argument. The family has been pushing for this indictment for years. The implied double jeopardy argument above also doesn’t work— the person in question has never been tried for any direct involvement in this ugly situation, only for concealing one of the perpetrators.

        I’m not in favor of burning witches. I do not have any direct or indirect knowledge of whether or not he was involved. I’m not making any judgements to his guilt or innocence. If the witnesses against him are not credible (and you do make a very good argument against one of them) then I hope the jury does its duty and acquits. If the testimony is credible then I hope that he is sentenced to life plus cancer so that he can never harm another member of our community.

        We won’t know the answer to that until the evidence is examined. Maybe it’s not timely, but they say the wheels of justice grind slowly.

        1. CLS

          First, I make no implied double jeopardy argument.

          Second, I am fully aware the families, specifically Chris Newsom’s family, have been pushing for this indictment for years.

          Families, however, don’t make the call on indictments. Prosecutors do. And they have to have enough evidence to convince a grand jury to hand down a True Bill to get that indictment. The fact that it took the testimony of a defendant who gained a conscience after his sentence was slashed to a third of the original says a lot about what the Knox County DA’s office is doing to “seek justice” here.

          1. David

            Yes, families don’t make the call. Which makes the short paragraph in your original post criticizing this action on the grounds it will disturb the families (reliving the crime) doubly confusing. There are good reasons which you canvas thoroughly not to proceed; but disturbing the families, when it’s what they want, isn’t one of them.

      2. B. McLeod

        Boyd’s part in the crime that was charged and provable against Boyd at the time. Now they are going for a conviction on additional acts based on the account of Thomas and whatever else they can get in. It’s all about retribution. Boyd should have been expecting it all these years.

  3. LawrencyLee

    One reason why the principals in that prosecution got off without the most extreme sentences which they deserved is that the judge in that case was later found to have been intoxicated on narcotics.

    1. CLS

      That salacious fact aside, all four original defendants were granted retrials. Three defendants got life plus cancer. One’s on death row.

      Thanks to his rambling, incredible testimony that was ripped to shreds on cross, George Thomas will only do forty years.

      Boyd’s probably getting a guilty verdict at the trial level. I think at this point he’s got a fighting chance on appeal, since the state is basing their case on old evidence coupled with crap testimony from Thomas.

      And I hope the Knox County DA’s office is loving the respectability bump they’re getting when nightly news runs headlines reading “DA’s MADE DEAL WITH DEVIL.”

Comments are closed.